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  • Writer's pictureRoxy Humphrey

Why Trauma?

I often get asked why I like working with clients who have experienced trauma.  To many people who ask me, it can seem like it might be overwhelming or heartbreaking. 

The truth is that far from feeling overwhelmed, it’s the opposite: I find my work as a counsellor incredibly grounding and hopeful. I don’t often get weighed down by clients' stories and I think there are a few reasons why. 

What is trauma? Trauma arises as a response to a disturbing incident(s) or events. It is a way that people survive challenging and stressful moments. Their bodies say “Wow, this is hard but there’s too much going on to process this now” and so the body stores the pain away for a later moment, when there are more resources at hand to process it.  When I begin working with people, they are often wanting to begin this process, as scary and unknown as it might be.  

So why doesn’t this weigh me down? First, for me, part of being a counsellor is regular, ongoing self care. Most of the time, I have good practices of releasing and letting go of the stories that I hear each day and week. Body-mind practices, like yoga, are a big part of that process, as is time spent outside, being creative, and spending time with people I love. I do these practices not only because they give me pleasure but they help me show up and support those I work to support a lot better.*

I see myself as a midwife in the healing process. The modalities I incorporate into my practice support the client to become their own healer. This means that instead of the focus on me healing the client, it is a collaborative journey of being together. It means neither of us are alone navigating the journey.

Third, even when I hear of horrific experiences, alongside and in the midst of those stories, I also see courage, capacity, resilience, tenderness, and goodness. My clients continually astound me and I often walk away from a day of work in awe of my clients and humbled to be a part of their journeys. Furthermore, my growing hunch is that to be a human being in the world means that, at some point or other, we will all experience trauma. We all swim in a world that includes violence, abuse and exploitation (there is also joy, connection, and love).

This perspective helps me as I work with people with even the most complex of diagnoses, diagnoses that to them might feel unbearable (cptsd, bpd, bipolar, for instance). While not to make light of the real pain, unfairness, and the hard work it takes to heal from incredibly painful experiences, these diagnoses are also the markers of humanity. In this process of relating to pain, there’s possibility: These wounds can also become marks of beauty.

In her beautiful writing, Kate Bowler says, “There’s no cure for being human.” I believe this. I believe that being human means we all share in an experience of suffering to one degree or another and we all will die. That’s a truth we all have to face. And I also believe that there are things that help as we navigate our way through the world in human flesh. Processing and working through one's own trauma is one way to make being alive a more enriching and fulfilling experience. Helping people face and process their own pain means that, in the process, they are able to become more human, more themselves. 

*It's worth noting that my job affords me a lot of flexibility to practice self care and I am aware of many people who work within larger systems in positions of care (teachers, nurses, for instance) who do not have the same flexibility and whose jobs ask for more of their time and energy. Self care in that context can seem like another burden.

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